Spare us the league table moralising 1

July 15, 2010

In your editorial "Some very necessary measures" (8 July), you state: "Arguing that rankings compare apples and oranges is not an excuse to give students a lemon. Until universities themselves can come up with a feasible alternative that does not do a disservice to those whom they aspire to teach, rankings are here to stay."

You also accuse universities of "obfuscating" information about what they do.

It is an unfortunate but inescapable fact that in a diverse mass system, there can never be agreed measures of educational quality - the education that students, staff, institutions and others create and fashion during and after their time at university.

Even if there were, there is no way in which such measures could be made accessible in advance to students and potential students. And if this hurdle could be overcome, there is little evidence to suggest that students or their families would be any more "rational" in their use of such information than they are in relation to other goods, services and experiences.

What rankings and league tables do - and you have only to glance at the job advertisements in Times Higher Education to see this - is to reinforce and underpin the pursuit of prestige that is gradually poisoning higher education worldwide.

With the marketisation of the academy in full swing, there is every reason for commercial publishers to create and promote such devices - but please, spare us the moralising.

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